CCT Serves Onnoghen Hearing Notice

CJN Hon. Justice Walter N. Onnoghen

The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), yesterday served the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, hearing notice ahead of his arraignment on Monday.

In addition, the Federal Government has filed a motion seeking an interlocutory order to give legal backing to the January 25,2019  suspension of Onnoghen pending the determination of his case at the CCT.

The Nation gathered yesterday that the earlier ex parte order cited by President Muhammadu Buhari in suspending  Onnoghen ought not to last more than two weeks.

Confusion is also brewing over a petition sent to the National Judicial Council(NJC), by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, against the CCT Chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar.

The petition has been referred to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC).

It was gathered that Umar, at his inauguration,  only took the oath of office for public officers and not the one for judicial officers.

This, some people say, means he is not a judicial officer per se but a public officer and thus cannot be disciplined by the FJSC.

However, Onnoghen backers think otherwise.

They insist that the FJSC can exercise disciplinary control on the CCT chairman by applying the provisions of paragraph 13 part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The FJSC was yet to act on Agbakoba’s petition against the chairman of CCT at press time.

Sources said yesterday that the CCT had served hearing notice on Onnoghen and expects the suspended  CJN to be personally present at Monday’s sitting.

The notice followed   Wednesday’s decision of the Court of Appeal that the proceedings of the tribunal cannot be stayed.

The three-man panel said the Supreme Court had, in its a ruling on Saraki v the Federal Republic of Nigeria, declared  that the CCT is a “peculiar tribunal with quasi-criminal jurisdiction of which proceedings cannot be stayed.”

Although the CCT on Wednesday said it would communicate a new trial date to all the parties before it, our correspondent exclusively gathered that Onnoghen has been notified of his trial on Monday.

It was also learnt that the tribunal has decided to sit daily to ensure a speedy trial of the case.

A source familiar with the development said: “The CCT notified the CJN through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun(SAN) and Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) as mutually agreed with the tribunal.

“At the previous sitting of the tribunal, the counsel asked the court to always relate with them on any communication or notice for the CJN. They are on record on this request which was granted.

“Once the trial begins on Monday, the CCT will sit every day to enable all the parties make their submissions. There are two applications pending before the tribunal including the defendant’s challenge of the jurisdiction of the court and a motion for an interlocutory order.

“With the ruling of the Court of Appeal, the jurisdiction is already resolved in favour of the tribunal. But the prosecution will have to argue its motion on interlocutory injunction to allow the CJN to remain on suspension till the determination of the case.

“The truth is that the ex parte order, which President Muhammadu Buhari relied upon to suspend Onnoghen,  has a lifespan of two weeks. This is why the government is seeking an interlocutory injunction for the CJN to be on suspension while his trial lasted.

“The tribunal will listen to all parties and deliver a ruling on the interlocutory application. If it issues the order, Onnoghen will be on suspension but if otherwise, the government has no choice than to reinstate the CJN in compliance with the order of the CCT.”


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